This summer I picked up a bicycle trailer off of Kijiji for 50 bucks. It has a few bumps and bruises but it works just fine, and my kids love it. They’re too young still to go far on their own bikes, so they get to live vicariously through me for the moment. Because I’m riding a single-speed these days, I have to work really hard to pull them around on the hills, which benefits me too.
It’s also a handy thing for gathering free stuff you find while out riding around, since it has a little storage ‘trunk’ behind where the kids sit. This weekend we went to check out a big hill nearby to our new neighbourhood (which incidentally is going to make a wicked toboganning hill in a month or so). I come here once and a while to do hill sprints. I’ve taken them once before, although last time they got pretty distracted by the local groundhog that we spent most of the time stalking him through the grass and trying to find his hiding spots. This time we found the hole but the groundhog must have been hiding from the cold…so I managed to get them to run a few circuits of the hill. In truth, they make it about halfway up and then get tired, so I benefit from some extra resistance on the second half of the climb. Win/win.
The exciting thing was once we got to the top for the last time, I noticed a huge bunch of Shaggy Mane Mushrooms growing in the grass, just a short distance away. Now, despite being pretty confident with wild plants, I don’t usually don’t f@&k around with mushrooms – too risky if you make a mistake. Whereas with plants, there’re only a few that will really mess you up (and those are pretty easily identified and avoided), there are some mushrooms that will kill you five ways before you hit the ground. Shaggy Manes look like Shaggy Manes, however, and nothing else. So they’re one of a handful of mushrooms that I feel confident eating.
I cooked these up with some garlic, parsley and onions, and pureed them into a pretty decent wild mushroom soup. These mushrooms basically start liquefying into a black inky substance soon after picking (in the 20 minute cycle home, they’d already started to fall apart a bit in the bike trailer), so it’s best to get cracking in preparing them sooner than later. Even though I was 100% sure of the identity, I only ate a few bites of the soup that evening and refrigerated the rest for the next day. Once 12 hours passed without kidney/liver failure, it was full speed ahead.
Also on our trip, we stopped by a creek to dig up some Jerusalem artichoke tubers. These grow into sunflower-like flowers in the late summer/fall, which my daughter loves. In fact, I believe the name Jerusalem is a bastardization of giro + sola, which is from the Spanish for turn toward the sun, because that’s what the conquistadors called them and then the name got confused with ‘Jerusalem’ and just stuck. The tubers themselves look a bit like yams, but you can eat them raw and they’re white and crunchy. They reproduce like mad, so we only dug up about a dozen little tubers (plus one or two that I ate) and once we got home the kids helped me plant them in a new flowerbed we dug. I hope they come up in the spring. I did the same thing in our last house and within a season they’d turned into a sea of waving yellow flowers. You can dig up some of the tubers in the fall to eat, as long as you leave a few over the winter to produce new shoots.
So, still lots of free, healthy food out there in November, if you keep your eyes peeled.
Total cost: $0.00